Presidency issues apology after press gag
The President HE Dr. Hage Geingob’s office issued an apology after two journalists were barred from covering the official inauguration of the COVID-19 isolation facility at the Windhoek Central Hospital.
The journalists, Charmaine Ngatjiheue (The Namibian) and Jemima Beukes (Namibian Sun) were manhandled and escorted out of the venue by police officers attached to the VIP Protection Directorate and only state-owned Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was allowed to cover the event.
Upon receiving an invite to the event, journalists prepared themselves to adhere to the regulations announced by State House on May 28, according to which one journalist per media house would be allowed to cover an event.
The office of the president said the action taken to restrict media was to comply with social distancing regulations and that the media was invited to cover the event due to a miscommunication between the presidency media team and the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
“We would like to re-assure the media that the Presidency values the important role of the media in a healthy democracy and will continue to ensure media freedom as guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia,” the State House said in a statement.
The presidency’s response comes after the Namibia Media Trust condemned the preferential treatment of state media as it dramatically impedes the watchdog role of the media and independent journalism.
“After a confrontation, and as they were leaving, a police officer reportedly shouted at them, ‘what if you got shot’, giving insight into the mindsets of our public safety professionals and
the ease with which they would resort to opening fire on civilians. This is unacceptable, more especially since these were women journalists who posed no threat to these officials,” Zoe Titus, the Director of Namibia Media Trust said.
A complaint has since been lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman by the journalists.